I’ve had the pleasure of teaching etiquette to children and teens for the past 5 years. During this time, the class content while being fun; upbeat has been directed at helping the participants grasp the basis of leadership. They can be leaders tomorrow in their classroom, on the team, on the bus, at home, too. I’ve compiled my personal list of traits that I think children should be trying to acquire during their formative years.

Being tactful

Your child is having dinner at his/her friend’s home. Was the meal overcooked? Should your child say something to the parent? Lie and tell the parent that the meal was delicious? No, being tactful is knowing how to speak without giving offense. Your child can simply say, “Thank you for inviting me for supper.” The same goes for trying new food items, too. Your child out of respect for her host must try a little provided there are no allergy issues. This attitude is repeated at a friends’ birthday where the games may be boring or the food is dull. Tact requires the ability to understand that just because a thought pops into the mind doesn’t need to be said out loud!!

Knowing how to introduce people – peers and adults, alike

This skill is so important. It’s one of the key moments when a first impression is made especially meeting adults like their teacher, friend’s parent, coach or music teacher. Stand up, eye contact, smile, reach for the web of the other person’s hand, shake twice and say their name. Repeat the other person’s name and say, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jones”. When meeting peers for the first time, children naturally wouldn’t engage in such formality. However, if your children are in a group, everyone should introduce themselves to a new person who wants to join. And your child needs to remember to introduce their friend to you during a playdate at their home.

Art of conversation

Meeting new people can be very stressful for children, adults included. Children need a plan ahead of time. First of all, the plan can include thinking of interesting topics that both children will like to talk about, for example school, sports, movies, books, etc. Remember to smile, be positive and watch any negative body language like eye rolling, looking at their phone, etc. Ending the conversation politely is important, too. Say, “It was nice talking to you. I’m just going to get some food now”. Role-play this scenario with your child so they feel confident. Getting the whole job done well without constant reminders We know how much employers love self-starters. Well, it begins with teaching children to do their chores well and completely; consistently as a good habit. The same goes for their schoolwork. It’s all about creating a professional attitude in everything they do.

Situational awareness

Are they aware of people around them in line-ups? How about elderly or pregnant moms who may need a seat on the bus or train? Will they offer their seat? If they bump into someone, do they say sorry? If they have to cross in front of someone, do they say excuse me? How about the other Fabulous Phrases? Please, Thank you, You’re Welcome. These powerful phrases can recreate whole communities into caring ones.

Empathetic of the feelings of others

This skill is really the foundation of practicing leadership through good manners. If our children aren’t aware of the feelings of others, then they are at a great disadvantage of establishing positive, meaningful relationships. They won’t be effective as leaders in their chosen careers either. The empathetic person always knows how his/her behavior will affect others. And they always choose the way that brings out the best result.

Notice that person who may be left out

Your child is showing high levels of leadership when he/she notices and helps that classmate who is alone on the playground at recess or alone at lunchtime. Respectful towards everyone…no matter what Being respectful towards others even if the same behavior isn’t reciprocated is a sign of maturity. Your child is eager to set the bar high and not stoop to the level of someone who isn’t being kind or well-mannered. It’s called living the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have done unto you.

Be encouraging towards other students, siblings or teammates

Kindness towards siblings will not soon be forgotten. Yes, they can be quite annoying but overlooking their quirkiness and finding good things to appreciate goes a long way to create a cheerful home. The same applies to fellow classmates especially group work. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Trying to help bring out the best of the group will have better results. Being an encouraging player on the team is so important, as well.

Be a good friend…loyalty

Help your child to know how to be a good friend. Ask them what traits they think are important. And then tell them to be the kind of friend they’d like to hang out with. Stress loyalty as the “glue” that should keep a friendship together. Sometimes children continue being friends with certain classmates or neighbors out of habit rather than from a sense of loyalty. It’s okay if those friendships fall by the wayside particularly if they’re not healthy.

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